Paid subscriber issue: We are weaker together
Except when there is a sick day or a bad weather day, but even then...
For Presidents’ Day weekend, I took each son on a separate overnight at a DoubleTree hotel where he could swim and play with a friend (and in the older one’s case, share a room) while that kid’s mom and I ate Trader Joe’s snacks and caught up and shot the shit and read magazines and watched hotel TV. The kids were extremely happy and agreeable the whole time because life was good for them.
Sans sibling rivalry and housework and work-work, their moms were relaxed, but also maybe because their moms were alone. I told my friend Elizabeth on night one how now that my husband is traveling more for work, I’m remembering how it’s kinda easier to parent kids when it’s just you (when your personal default is you and someone else.)
“Oh my god it’s totally easier,” she said. “We suck when we’re all together,” I emailed another witch about this phenomenon she was like OMG SAME.
Who knows what it is—maybe when we are all together, the kids can sense the extra divided attention, or the tension in the air over household tasks finished or unfinished, the cross-talk re: what’s for dinner or what time we leave for guitar class or who is taking the dog to the groomers and what should I make for dinner and does anyone want to add anything to the shopping list.
When it’s me, I lean into being the babysitter/Fun Mom and also sneak the kids into bed earlier than usual when the dad is often around. Somehow when it’s just me, there is less bullshit about getting out the door in the morning, and I’m always strolling downstairs with the kids in bed by 7:58 PM like:
To be clear, I do not think I’d be writing these sentiments if I had a newborn or a kid in diapers still, or were still dealing with car seats and split daycare/school dropoffs or various other permutations where one person alone is hell.
But when the proverbial trains are running on time, it’s kinda simpler when it’s just me. I have learned ways to make it this way over time. I bribe the kids with episodes of “Abbott Elementary” before bed if they take a shower and put on their pajamas first. I say yes to small requests like can they watch episodes of “Mystery Doug” while they eat. I’m still trying to remember never to cook dinner when my husband’s out of town, even in the spirit of making something that he normally would not like because I just get mad at myself for giving myself more dishes to do.
Of course, this is a tricky sentiment to express without making it sound like I prefer it when I do all the solo parenting, that I really am saying, “Single moms have it easy!” or “I am not grateful enough for my husband and am jinxing myself into him leaving me or him dying tragically and me looking like a bitch.”
But I don’t think my husband would disagree with the overall sentiment that often it’s easier when we are at 50-75 instead of 100% family capacity. He’s observed with wonder how our 7-year-old will be an angel at school pickup, and then 15 minutes later, he’s raging when the four of us are together (five counting the dog, and he very much likes being a part of the narrative.)
This may be why family vacations are so wearying. Just too much time together. And why COVID broke us. And maybe parenthood in general because sometimes I wonder if we just all see our kids and spouses too much. I don’t know where we are supposed to otherwise put them that is realistic or works for us, but it’s just a theory I’m working on.
So I’m declaring it’s not necessarily a bad sign if sometimes you realize that it’s just easier to run your house solo. It’s how sometimes, on reality shows, they announce there’s a group challenge, and everyone deflates a little but forges on. Sometimes the group pulls together, and rallies, and everyone gets to show off their strengths.
But other times, the whole team gets eliminated.
Do your kids react differently when it’s just you, as well? Maybe it’s just that we are just really awesome moms, and they hate it when our perfection is diluted.
I hope you enjoyed this subscriber-only issue of Evil Witches. If you have any questions, ideas, feedback or suggestions for other issues or conversation threads (last week’s was on what we’re getting the kids to eat these days), you can reply right to this email. You can talk to other witches on Twitter. Witch Carly runs the Instagram account, and you should follow it.
I am still trying to find sources, ideally obstetricians and doulas/midwives but maybe people outside the box who can talk about how pregnant women are prepared ahead of time for what happens in an induction (and why you might get induced) vs. a vaginal birth or C-section. If you know anyone who might be a good source, please let me know.
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One witchy thing
A line of empty chairs next to me a few months ago, when my son asked me to hold his snack for him while he went swimming: